Sophie?S World Essay, Research Paper
Looking in her mailbox one afternoon, a fourteen- year- old Norwegian schoolgirl
named Sophie Amundsen finds a surprising white envelope containing a piece of paper.
On it are written two questions: “Who are you?” and “Where did the world come
from?”. And at the same time she is also receiving letters for a girl named Hilde Moller
Kang and Sophie also finds a silk red scarf in her bedroom, not belonging to her, but to
this girl Hilde.
The writer is an enigmatic philosopher named Albert Knox and his messenger is his
dog Hermes. Albert Knox’s two teasing questions are the beginning of an extraordinary
journey through philosophy from philosophers such as what I have read so far: Thales,
Anaximenes, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Anaxgoras, Democritus, Socrates,
Plato, and Aristotle. Albert Knox, whom Sophie has not met in person or even seen for
that matter, has been inquiring Sophie’s mind to fundamental questions that philosophers
have been asking since the dawn of civilization.
Sophie is soon enough enrolled in this correspondence course. Everyday she gets
either a white envelope containing puzzling questions or a brown envelope containing type
written papers teaching her about what philosophy is and explaining to her all these
philosophers and their theories.
Sophie’s first lesson in philosophy was, “What is philosophy?”. How I
understood what was being said was that philosophy is the examination for beliefs and an
analysis of the basic concepts said in the expression of such beliefs. Philosophy is often
used to mean a set of values and attitudes toward life, nature, and society. Next Sophie
learned about was Thalas. According to Thalas, the original principle of all things is
water, from which everything proceeds and into which everything is again resolved. My
analysis on that is how can he come to that conclusion? Yes, all living things contain
water within themselves, but it seems preposterous for him to say that we evolved from
water. Living things not only contain water but contain substances. The only logical
conclusion that Sophie found was that water turns into ice, and ice can go back to flowing
water again. Another philosopher that was discussed along with Thalas was
Anaximander. Anaximander held that all things eventually return to the element from
which they originated. When a plant dies it desinigrates into the ground and the ground is
where the plant originated from, so I can see where Anaximender could propose that.
But human beings did not originate from the ground, unless he did have religious beliefs,
such that human evolved from dirt. So when he/she dies they go back to where they
originated, so I could see where that concept might come into place.
Although Anaximenes had a different concept. He held the concept that air is the
primary element to which everything else can be reduced. To explain how solid objects
are formed from air, he introduced the notions of condensation and rarefaction. These
processes, he claimed, make air, in itself invisible, visible as water, fire, and solid
matter. He thought that air becomes warmer and turns into fire when it rarefied and that it
turns colder and turns solid when condensed. How I see it his attempt was to discover the
ultimate nature of reality.
On the other hand, Sophie learned about Parmenidas’s philosophy. Parmendias’s
philosophy demonstrated the reality of the absolute being, the nonexistence of which
Parmenidas declared to be inconceivable, but the nature of which, he admitted to be
equally inconceivable, as it is dissociated from every limitation under which human beings
think. How I understand it, he held the fact that reality, is not known to the senses but it
is to be found only in reason. He plainly says that beings cannot rise from nonbeing, and
that being neither rises nor passes away. The phenomena of nature are only apparent and
due to human error, they seem to exist, but have no real existence. This is a man who
will not believe something is true or real not even if he saw it. I really don’t agree with
that concept. I believe if you see it, it really exists.
Another philosopher that was mentioned to Sophie was Empedocles. He believed
that all things are composed of four primal elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The two
active and opposing forces, love and hate, act upon these elements, combining separating
them into valid forms. Empedocles believed that no change involving the creation of new
matter is possible, only changes in the combinations of the four existing elements may
occur. I would have to agree with what was concluded on Empedocles theory. “The only
way we can accept the transformations we can see with our own eyes, is to admit the
existence of more than one single basic substance”. Earth does not make visual
transformation by fire, water, and air. All three elements can destroy or transform items
Another philosopher that was mentioned was Anaxagoras. Anaxagoras introduced
the notion of reason. I got the impression after reading this theory that all matter had
existed originally as atoms, or molecules, that these atoms, infinitely numerous and small,
had existed all eternity, and that order was first produced out of this infinite chaos of
atoms through the influence of intelligence. He believed that all bodies are simple
aggressions of atoms. Here is an example of what I think he means in this theory. A bar
of gold, iron, or copper would be composed of inconceivable minute particles of the
same material. That example is basically what Anaxgoras’s concept implies.
All these things that Sophie was learning about started to really fascinate and
excite her. She was able to follow those philosophers idea with her own common sense.
Sophie also studies Democritusis’s concept of the atom theory. She felt that he
discovered the solution to the problem of basic substance and transformations. She
concluded that nature must have been built up of small parts that are never changed.
Soon enough began her study of the infamous Socrates. Socrates was a very
different man. His belief in a purely objective understanding of such concepts as love,
justice, and virtue. He believed that all vice is the result of ignorance, and that no person
is willingly badly; correspondingly, virtue is knowledge, and those who knew the right
will act right.
It wasn’t until the teachings of Socrates, that Sophie finally saw who her
philosopher was. She found out, not by meeting him in person, but saw him on a video
tape he sent her. The video tape was of him describing to her about Athens, Greece. On
the video tape she was given four tasks by a man portraying, Plato. The first task was
that she was to think about how could a baker bake fifty cookies to look identical. The
second task was to think of why horses are the same. Thirdly, she had to decide whether
man is a immortal soul. And finally she had to say whether women and men are equally
For the first task, she came up with the answer that the baker had to use a mold to
make them identical. For the second task, her conclusion was that no horse could be the
same but they did come out of the same mold, no other mold. For the third conclusion,
she decided for a man to have a immortal soul he must have two separate parts: a body
that gets worn out over time and a soul that functions no matter what happens to the
body. Her fourth conclusion was that men have the same common sense as a woman, so
yes they would have to be equal. After she finished thinking about these ideas, then
finally came her lesson about Plato. Plato’s philosophy was that all living things were
imperfect copies of the eternal forms in the world of ideas. Everything and everyone even
yourself are imperfect. Plato divides the human soul into three parts: the rational part,
supported by the will, controls the appetite. After Sophie finished reading Plato’s theory,
her head was filled with questions. Questions that need to be answered.
Upon reading Plato’s theory, Sophie decided to take a walk in the woods the next
day. She was determined to find this Alberto Knox and his dog Hermes. Soon enough
she was on her way through the woods where she finally reached a lake. There across the
lake she saw a small cabin and decided that Knox must have lived there. She got into the
small boat that took her across the lake. She approached the cabin and proceeded inside
very carefully. There she found a school ID with a picture of a girl on it and under that
picture read the name Hilde Moller Kang. Sophie also found a series of white envelopes
with her name on it. Suddenly she heard Hermes barking from a distance and froze to a
panic. She didn’t want Knox finding her there, so she ran out of the cabin all the way
That same afternoon Hermes came over to her house to deliver her a letter and her
next lesson. The letter told her that he knew she was the one who broke into his house
and that he wasn’t made at her, its just that he had to move now. Sophie could not figure
out why he had to move. Anyhow she turned to read her next lesson which was on
Aristotle. As I was reading Aristotle’s logistic theory, I found that he developed rules lead
from true premises to false conclusions. For example, “All humans are mortal” and “All
Greeks are humans” therefore the conclusion is that “All Greeks are mortal”. Aristotle
was also trying to say human nature involves a capacity for forming habits, but the habits
the individual choices depends on the individual’s culture and personal choices. All
humans beings want happiness, an active realization of their innate capacities, but this
goal can be achieved in a multiplicity of ways. Aristotle argued for the existence of a
divine being described as the Prime Mover, who is responsible for the unity and
purposefulness of nature. The prime mover, GOD, is perfect and therefore the aspiration
of all things in the world, because all things desire to share perfection.
After Sophie finished reading Aristotle felt a need to be orderly, and that she
started to value personal commitment and value judgments
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